Hearty shepherd’s pie with lamb, carrots, and peas is topped with a creamy layer of mashed potatoes and sharp cheddar cheese. Perfect English pub fare to celebrate St. George’s Day!
Why you’ll love it: Shepherd’s pie is an exceptionally good casserole and very hearty.
How long it takes: about one and a half hours
Equipment you’ll need: large saucepan, skillet, baking dish (9 x 13 inches)
My husband is a huge history buff (and I just love a good party). In the last couple of years, we have been celebrating St. George’s Day (April 23rd). This year, we were visiting my parents but they were on board to celebrate with us. My dad even read up on St. George online (yep, he’s the best).
I purchased all the ingredients for shepherd’s pie, the traditional dish served on St. George’s Day, packed it all in a cooler, and brought the makings for a feast with us.
There are two parts to this feast. First part: beer (okay, beer isn’t absolutely essential but it is strongly encouraged). Preferably an English ale. Preferably Boddington’s Pub Ale.
If you have never had Boddington’s, don’t wait until St. George’s Day to try it, go out and get some now. Let it set out for a minute (or five) and enjoy it at cellar temperature (13 °C/55 °F). Then come back here and thank me. Okay, that isn’t necessary, but you’ll probably want to.
Sorry — back to this feast. The next part is shepherd’s pie and I’m sharing a great recipe here for that. It makes a big panful (serves 10), so feel free to invite guests to celebrate with you.
My mom made a delicious salad to go with the shepherd’s pie and ever since I’ve had a little love affair going on with radishes.
By the way, my husband loved all the hoopla for St. George’s day. The printouts of the flag of St. George and the St. George paintings were a surprise. I’m winning the award for wife of the year. Or not. But he very much enjoyed the shepherd’s pie. He won’t be as happy about my love affair with radishes.
About this recipe
While this recipe takes a little time to prepare, it’s not difficult. The first time I made shepherd’s pie, I used ground beef, instant potatoes and beef gravy out of a jar. Give me a break, I was working full time!
Needless to say, this recipe is much better. In my opinion, the lamb is what makes this really flavorful and a cut above the ordinary, and it’s traditional. Beef would be fine, but if you’re going to make shepherd’s pie, why not go for the lamb?
I’ll get you started on the recipe here but look for the printable recipe card with complete instructions, measurements, and nutrition information near the end of the post.
What you’ll need
- Ground Lamb: Lamb is a high quality protein, and is a good source of many vitamins and minerals (Healthline). If desired, substitute lean ground beef.
- Round White or Yukon Gold Potatoes: Russets or red potatoes would be fine, too. Use your favorite “mashing” potato. You’ll be adding a little milk and butter to mash them.
- Vegetables: Onions, carrots, and peas are the traditional vegetables used in shepherd’s pie.
- Thyme: Use fresh or dried. If you choose dried, use half as much.
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Dry Red Wine and Beef Stock, to make a delicious gravy, with a little flour added to thicken the gravy.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese for a beautiful golden topping on the casserole.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
First, boil the potatoes until they’re tender. When they’re cooked, mash them with butter and milk.
Meanwhile, brown the ground lamb (or beef) in a large skillet. Add the onions and carrots to soften them a bit.
When the meat is browned and the veggies are soft, stir in the flour. It will coat the meat and veggies and act as a thickener for the gravy. Pour in the wine, broth, and thyme, stirring and simmering until the gravy has thickened. Add the peas.
You’re ready to assemble the casserole. Pour the meat mixture into a large casserole dish, spread the mashed potatoes over the whole thing, and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Pop it into the oven and bake it twenty to twenty-five minutes.
Shepherd’s pie is a loosely constructed casserole. When you scoop it out, it won’t be nice even squares like lasagna. The bottom part especially is just meat, vegetables, and gravy so it’s not going to hold its shape. This casserole is a good one to scoop out with a large spoon.
It’s all in the meat: cottage pie is made with beef and shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.
The mashed potatoes could be the only crown your shepherd’s pie wears but a layer of sharp cheddar cheese melted on top is really delicious and commonly seen on shepherd’s pie.
Make it your own
- While peas, carrots, and onions are traditional, different vegetables can be substituted. Try corn, diced bell peppers, mushrooms, shredded cabbage, or turnips.
- Add more herbs. Fresh parsley, rosemary, or sage are good choices.
- Instead of mashed white potatoes, make your topping with mashed sweet potatoes.
- Try different types of cheese to sprinkle on top, or leave the cheese off.
- If you love lamb, try my braised lamb shanks. They are wonderful!
Brown the ground lamb and veggies up to a day ahead; refrigerate. Make the mashed potatoes a day ahead, too, or use leftover mashed potatoes. Assemble casserole and bake when desired.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Leftover shepherd’s pie can be stored in the fridge, covered tightly, for three to five days. I don’t recommend freezing it. Mashed potatoes just don’t taste great after they’ve been frozen, thawed, and reheated.
To reheat, microwave on high for a minute or until heated through. Or put the leftovers in a shallow casserole dish and heat at 350°F for 15 minutes or until it’s heated through.
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- 3 pounds ground lamb (or lean ground beef)
- 3 pounds round white or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 to 5 large carrots, chopped
- 10 ounces frozen peas
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3 cups reduced sodium beef stock (plus more if needed)
- ½ cup milk (more if needed)
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened, optional
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (see note)
- Cover potatoes with water in large pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, and reduce heat. Cook until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and set aside (see note).
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Brown the meat in two batches over medium high heat. Drain excess fat from the browned meat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens. Add carrots and allow to soften slightly as well.
- Add pepper, flour, thyme and stir together for about a minute until the flour coats everything.
- Add the peas, wine, and broth. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are tender and the gravy is thickened. Add more broth as needed to achieve a consistency that you are happy with.
- Mash the potatoes with milk and a little butter (if desired).
- Spread the meat and vegetable mixture in a large baking dish (9 x 13 inches) and carefully spread the potatoes over the top. Place pan on a foil lined baking sheet to catch spills.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake until bubbly and heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Mashed potatoes can be prepared up to two days in advance and refrigerated. Leftover mashed potatoes can be used if you have them.
- Substitute lean ground beef for the lamb if desired.
- To make a lower calorie shepherd’s pie, omit cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the mashed potato topping with paprika or use a fork to “decorate” the top with tine marks.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.